Stone-crushing units in State get KSPCB breather

They have been asked to shift to safe zones

As many as 3,000 stone-crushing units in the State have found temporary reprieve, with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board deciding to relax its norms.

On Friday, KSPCB issued a directive to the district administrations to lift the one year ban on the units, and allow the activities, provided the units submitted applications stating that they were ready to shift their plants from their existing locations to ‘safe zones’ or ‘stone crushing industrial estates.’

KSPCB chairman Vaman Acharya told Deccan Herald that 120 safe zones have been identified across the State by the district-level task force, constituted by the Government. Those units which have accepted to shift, will be allowed to operate for a period of three months.

KSPCB has directed the departments concerned to restart the power and water supply, added Acharya.

If the task force, comprising deputy commissioners, officials from KSPCB, Forest, Mines and Geology, and Agriculture departments, deems fit to allot land to the units that have accepted to shift, then such units will be given a ‘breathing period’ for another six months.

“Only those units that submit in writing that they are ready to shift will be given the relaxation. If their applications are processed then the units can continue operations for another six months, until they can complete the re-allocation process. If the units do not shift within the said period, then their licences will be revoked for good,” he said.

Special consideration

He said those units which have taken up government infrastructure works like roads and bridge, will be allowed to carry out quarrying activities until the said project is completed. Such units will be given separate licences by the local committees.

Acharya said the acreage of the safe zones will vary from 30 acres to 300 acres. As per the Supreme Court and High Court directions, the government was required to regulate the stone crushing sector by creating safe zones, which would act as a concentration camp for these units in every district. The objective behind this condition was to bring down pollution levels and also check encroachments.

Background

The saga of the stone crushing industry dates back to 1997, when Obayya Poojary filed a petition before the court, stating that the government had not framed any guidelines to regulate the units.

Following years of litigation, during which, the High Court adopted the Haryana model and ordered for the creation of safe zones, the units moved the Supreme Court.

The apex court dismissed the Stone Crushing Association’s appeals and confirmed the HC orders. It had granted the State government a year’s time to comply with the HC order, but the government failed to do so, pleading that the norms were stringent and impractical.

Eventually, the State government issued an ordinance – the Karnataka Regulation of Stone Crushers Act - which has come into force from January, this year. Despite this, safe zones were not created, which had led to KSPCB issuing closure orders to all the units on June 30.

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